The Abbey Tavern in Kentish Town, whose kitchen is run by Farmer Tom Jones, is one of the newest restaurants in London. I had heard that it is a great place for good value steak. The chef at this restaurant is a farmer (hence the name) from Stafford who supplies all of the meat to the restaurant. I had heard that it is one of the best sourced meat restaurants as well as incredibly cheap for the quality. What I didn’t realise until we visited it, was that it was part of a pub; not a gastropub type style instead a dark indie pub that served cheap alcohol. Now I know I always ramble on about food being more important than decor and location but this is the exception and yes, I admit I am a hypocrite.
As I walked into this dark, crowded pub I expected to be lead upstairs instead I found my friend sitting squashed on a table opposite the bar. Clearly the pub had just placed five tables at one side of the pub and hoped for the best, there was no dining room for us, or even separate area for the diners. I squeezed into the table knocking over a few peoples bags and bumping their chairs and welcomed my friend (it didn’t help that we were swapping the families Christmas presents so had even less room and more baggage than usual). It was a noisy pub as everything was in one room; this was made far worse by the fact that it was ‘Open Mic Night’ so throughout the meal we had to shout and keep repeating things for the other person.
The menu comprised of one starter, three main course options and two desserts. It was not table service so we had to queue with the drinkers to order our food and drinks. We ordered a mid range bottle of chardonnay (which tasted atrocious) and ordered parsnip soup for starter, which was not difficult to decide as it was the only option. I ordered steak for main course and asked for vegetables instead of chips. This was quickly declined as it was not on the limited menu. They had ran out of lamb shanks, which my friend had ordered so she went for the only other option of cottage pie.
We sat back down at our table shouting over the noise and gathered our cutlery which was inexcusably served in a pint glass with napkins stuffed in between. We were quickly served our parsnip soup. The service was quick but I expect if you have a very limited menu it is not hard to have most things prepared. The soup came out in a wide rimmed bowl full of steaming beige soup speckled with pepper. It was delicious and warming especially on a cold winter’s night. We quickly finished this and our bowls were taken away.
We were asked by the inexperienced waiter (she had clearly been working behind the bar before Farmer Tom decided to choose this location, and as a result the formality and friendliness of a waiter was missing yet the speed and efficiency was there from her bartending past). I was given a large hunk of rib-eye steak served with hand cut chips and salad. The steak was large, rare and very tasty. The salad was bitter and cut through the rich meat very nicely and the chips were golden and crisp in alternative shapes. The cottage pie came out in a similar hearty size and was served in bowl. I have to say the meat was truly delicious and you could tell that it was well sourced.
For dessert we both ordered the banoffee pie over the treacle tart and we were happy with our choice. The dessert was served in a glass tumbler and the banoffee had been layered so that there was a biscuit base, creamy layer topped off by toffee and banana slices. Delicious.
I have to say the food quality, although incredibly simple, was impeccable as you knew where it was sourced and you knew a bit of the background to this. I think that the background knowledge that the farmer set this kitchen up in the dingy pub is really the beauty of the place and explains it’s no frills attitude. For food and efficient service this place should get top marks but the service lacked emotion and the loud, crowded bar did it no favours. I would say for a good steak it is recommendable but personally I will not be going again. Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls reward The Abbey Tavern with:
Food Atmosphere Service